cultural equity & inclusion: perspectives, practices, programs, policies & plans
- We uphold the value of diversity among participants, trainees, instructors, and staff for building cultural understanding, trust, connection, and a healthy society.
- We also uphold the value of creative expression through the arts as a culturally-responsive practice. We assert that the integration of simple mental health practices can maximize the innate social and emotional benefits of the arts.
- Our social emotional arts (SEA) practices offer accessible community sources of support to address systemic inequities in mental health care. Underserved populations may have little or no access to mental health resources, they may receive inadequate care as a result of discriminatory practices and, even with access, those resources may not be utilized due to financial, legal, or cultural concerns.
- We offer sustainable sources of social emotional support to communities disproportionately impacted by trauma, violence, loneliness, intolerance, chronic illness and pain, grief and loss, homelessness, mental illness, displacement, incarceration, environmental disasters, social isolation, and more.
- Our SEA practices offer a nonverbal means of communication when words are limited by stress, trauma, language, ability, or culture. Moreover, our practices are directly aimed at enabling all participants to be seen and heard—without judgment. This organically encourages empathy, connection, and empowerment. According to renowned 20th century educator Paolo Freire, shared creative experiences facilitate meaningful dialogue and, in turn, social action.
- Our curriculum materials and teaching methods are trauma-informed and reflect sensitivity to culture and ability. We acknowledge the culture of participants and practice cultural inclusivity in the presentation of art forms.
- Our process of nonjudgment supports inclusion and helps to mitigate self-judgment that interferes with creative expression and arts participation. Inherent in self-judgment is the assumption of a fixed notion of ability, which may be associated with devaluation from lack of representation and opportunity or internalization of negative messaging. Embracing the process of creative expression, including any mistakes incurred along the way, builds a growth mindset that challenges fixed notions of ability and promotes achievement.
- We honor the lived experience of our participants and see them as knowledgeable owners of their own narratives and cultures. Therefore, we embrace, incorporate, and routinely solicit feedback from our diverse constituents in the implementation of our programs.
- We offer a free, online series, HOPE (Healing Online for People Everywhere), on relevant topics such as grief, social justice, anxiety, connection, and stress management to support the resilience of our global community.
- We have created a new professional pathway for those without the time or resources to pursue graduate education in expressive or creative arts therapies. Our Certificate Program in Social Emotional Arts offers practical tools for addressing challenges at the front lines of need—such as communication from trauma-informed and cultural perspectives, group cohesion, neurodiversity, needs assessment and evaluation, self-care tools for managing stress, and best practices in six different art forms. This program helps to build diversity of representation among practitioners and mentors in our field.
- We have developed a curriculum in Social Emotional Arts on a Shoestring: Supportive Art, Movement, Music, and Writing for Individuals & Groups in Any Setting. These activities are designed for delivery in places with few resources, with guidelines for implementation by age and ability as well as guidelines for communication and management of stress responses.
- Our signature training programs come with scripted curriculum materials to enable anyone to implement them with relative integrity. The scripted materials can be used without training.
- We offer free presentations to schools, community-based organizations, and student groups upon request.
- In 2020, we converted all our programming to a virtual format. This has resulted in greater and more affordable access to our work and a corresponding increase in demand for our offerings from diverse communities around the globe. We have since welcomed registrants from all across the United States and Puerto Rico, plus over 40 countries from Qatar to Peru.
- We proactively reach out to, and partner with, organizations serving under-resourced communities.
- We provide scholarships and payment plans for anyone who wishes to enroll in our programs; we never turn anyone away for their inability to pay.
- We hire staff members with a known commitment to cultural equity and social justice.
- We proactively recruit instructors who represent cultural diversity and who reflect the communities we serve. We also proactively support our instructors in modeling culturally-responsive teaching practices, such as acknowledging past exclusions and injustices, crediting cultural sources to avoid cultural appropriation, and offering cultural perspectives and considerations on our methodologies whenever possible.
- To increase diversity among our constituents, and to proactively reach underrepresented communities in need of our services.
- To increase diversity among our core and adjunct teaching faculty, staff, and board members.
- To increase cultural responsiveness and humility in our written curriculum materials and in the delivery of our training programs.
- To deliver website and social media messaging in formats that speak to underrepresented and under-resourced communities.
- To offer curriculum materials in other languages.
- To increase the cultural relevance of our program offerings in general.
- To play a leadership role in the conversation on cultural equity and inclusion.
- To develop a framework for implementation within each department’s purview, for alignment with CEI goals, and to conduct a monthly review of adherence to timelines.